Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘life’

img_5013

The Falls of the Ohio offers a variety of fishing opportunities throughout the year.  Whether you prefer light tackle action in the shallows or the pull from a fifty pound catfish while sitting on a boat…you can find that on the Ohio River flowing by Louisville.  I always check out what’s happening on the riverbank when I come out here.  I am especially interested in seeing what species are being caught and what’s being used to catch them.  On this warm December day the action was happening in the shallows.  Fisherman were using soft-bodied jigs to catch Sauger (a smaller relative of the Walleye) and this nice White Bass.

img_5009

img_5006-2

The White Bass, (Roccus chrysops) was first described by the eccentric naturalist Constantine Rafinesque who was familiar with the fish life at the Falls of the Ohio.  The White Bass is a big river fish that is also found in impoundments.  This fish can get to be 15 to 18 inches long and a maximum of around five pounds.  We also have a smaller relative, the Yellow Bass that is also found in the Ohio River.  Both species are related to marine sea basses and scatter their eggs without further care of their young.

img_4469

Since there is a lot of fishing activity on the river, I also find a lot of lost fishing gear. Broken poles, snagged line, and lots of plastic fishing lures like this recent example. It’s very easy to snag and lose a lure in the rocky bottom out here. Usually, when I find a lure, it is minus its hooks which either have broken off or have dissolved away.  I also pick up lost fishing floats and have been amazed by how much design variety that fishing tackle can encompass.  On the negative side, I also have a fairly full sandwich bag of lead fishing weights that I have accumulated over the years.  When the river is down during the height of summer, I will check out the dried holes in the rocky bottom that catch and tumble lead and other metals.

If nothing else, 2016 will be remembered by me for the quality of the fishing.  I was able to catch three species new to me to add to a growing list of species I have documented at the Falls of the Ohio.  Check out the next couple of images of a rare Ohio River Bowfin (Amia ohioensis) I angled from under the railroad bridge.

img_4512

img_4514

The Ohio River Bowfin is only marginally related to the better known Bowfin, (Amia calva).  The Ohio River Bowfin has adapted its life to living in shallow rocky streams where it ambushes other fish, frogs, crayfish, and other river invertebrates.  Uniquely, its anal and caudal fins have fused into one large fin that comes in handy for scraping out nests in the gravel bottoms it prefers to breed on.  After the male entices the gravid female into his nest and with a little luck and persuasion, a clutch of about fifty eggs is deposited and fertilized.  The male assumes all parenting duties.  Can also be distinguished by it long slender body and bright orange-colored eyes.  After a few pictures and measurements the fish was released unharmed back into the river.

img_4948

On another river expedition in November, I visited a different Falls of the Ohio location near the Interpretive Center to sample the fish life there.  Within a minute or two of my first cast I caught this near world record Copperbelly Suckermouth, (Catostomidae cupricana).  I was using a hook baited with clam meat which is the principle food of this Ohio River oddity.  The boats anchored in the river are probably going after large catfish.  This view gives you a good indication of the body type that evolved with some fish that inhabit swift flowing water.  Drag has been minimized and the pectoral fins are strong enough to anchor the fish in place as it hovers over the clam beds it prefers.

Here’s a symbiotic side note…several fresh water clam species use the Copperbelly Suckermouth as an intermediate host during part of their life cycles.  The nearly microscopic clam larvae attach themselves to the fish’s gills where for a short time, the larvae suck blood and grow before dropping off the fish to complete their life cycles in the gravely bottom. The host fish are left unharmed during the process.

img_4954

img_4956

A sneak peek on why this species is called the Copperbelly Suckermouth.  It’s undersides are a deep, rich, red to orange ochre color that is particularly intense during the Spring breeding period.  The strong sucker mouth is located on the fish’s ventral side and is flanked by barbels that help it locate food in the river’s bottom.  This was also strictly catch and release as was the case with my next fishy find.  As with most bottom dwelling fish at the Falls, one should limit how big a meal you make from your catch.  Toxins are more prevalent in the lower reaches which then are ingested and stored in the fish’s fatty tissues.  This particular species, however, has minimal food value.

img_4930

Another day and location at the Falls of the Ohio and another unexpected catch!  Using a grasshopper I caught on the bank and a beaver-chewed willow pole I found nearby, I fashioned a rig with an old line and a hook and caught this Kentucky Killifish, (Cyprinodontidae gargantua) by jigging the grasshopper around the shadows cast by the fossil-loaded limestone.  I dropped the grasshopper into just the right dark hole and pulled out this beauty.

img_4933

This is a giant among the killifishes as most are under a few inches in length.  Its blue eyes are distinctive.  Small invertebrates in the form of insect larvae are its main food item, but experience has shown it will go for whatever it thinks it can swallow using its relatively tiny mouth.  This fish has no food or sport value what so ever.  During the summer breeding period, the males of this species can get very colorful in an attempt to impress.  Still, a very nice way to cap the year with a new fish to add to the life list!

img_4999

Fishing on Mars or the Falls of the Ohio?  The setting sun has colored the dried riverbank a lovely Martian red.  Here explorers are doing what we do…searching for life in the most promising place we know which happens to be by the water.  I hope 2017 manages a way to be kind to our rivers and freshwater everywhere.  I’ll end my fishing story with a look inside the box where I keep my found fishing lures.  See you next year…from the Falls of the Ohio.

img_5902

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Vine covered Danger sign, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

It’s the end of the year and I have a handful of posts and projects I intended to present here before the date on the calendar changes.  I will do my best to try to catch up.  I’ll start with this outing along the Ohio River that happened in November.

I have finally had a bit of a lull from my day job and so I want to start catching up on posting images and stories of my Falls of the Ohio adventures over the last few weeks.  It’s also a bit of a relief from the disappointing presidential election we have just endured.  Hanging out at the river is always a good tonic for the soul.  May it always be that for me and other “river rats” who are drawn to moving waters.  For this post, I will concentrate on an assemblage I made using found bottles, jugs, and other plastic containers that I have collected from the banks of the Ohio River in this small state park in southern Indiana.

Picking up a plastic jug at the Falls of the Ohio

The Falls of the Ohio State Park is not a very big place as parks go, but it is a very historic and dynamic environment.  I remember when I first started coming out here it really bothered me to see so much junk along the riverbank.  It still does and  I tried standard recycling before settling on making art from what others preferred not to see or acknowledge.  What this unique space lacks in size, it makes up for by being a very dynamic environment.

For most of the year, the river behaves itself and lets the Army Corps of Engineers pretend that it is in control of its flow.  Every once in a while, however, the river reminds us through flooding and by going around the barriers set in its way to control it.  It is during these high water moments that all the rubbish sins of the world come down the river from environs both local and from parts north in our watershed.  As this blog documents, I find “stuff” all the time and unfortunately discarded plastic is high on the list.

Found plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, summer 2016

Here is found plastic that I brought back to my outdoor atelier under the willow trees.  I didn’t have to travel far to pick up all I wanted.  I realized as I drove to work this morning that my “outdoor atelier” is now under water.  A few days ago, we finally received enough rain to raise the level of the river.  It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have tried to do anything with plastic on this scale.  Only when I couldn’t deny the bright, unnatural colors any longer that it occurred to me to try to do something “artistic” with all this waste plastic.

Sorting the plastic by color, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

After I have selected a site for a project.  I move my materials to the chosen location and when I’m ready, I start sorting objects according to color.  I like to reference the electromagnetic spectrum and rainbows because they are about light.  Plastic is made from petroleum which is sun energy that has been harnessed by prehistoric plants and stored in their tissues.  Over deep time, heat, pressure and the vagaries of geology either liquefies this ancient material into crude oil or compresses it into coal.  It is interesting to think about how much our contemporary world is dependent on using the energy from our sun that shone millions of years a go!

found plastic at the Falls of the Ohio, October 2016

More found plastic, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

It will be a leap for some, but “light” in my mind is not only a part of the problem here, but also implies a solution.  We need to do a better job of using our innate creativity to capture the light of today’s sun.  Leave that “ancient energy” in the ground and we certainly don’t need anymore plastic.  Through a little trial and error, I found an arrangement that suits me.  If I am lucky and park visitors or the river decide not to erase what I’ve started then I expand and tinker with my outdoor composition.  If I’m correct, then this piece is already gone taken just today by the river. It lasted many weeks longer than I thought it would.  Thanks for tagging along with me!  Until next time from the Falls of the Ohio.

Colorful found plastic assemblage, Falls of the Ohio, Oct. 2016

Read Full Post »

Head in Hand, Aug. 2014

Each trip I take to the Falls of the Ohio results in lots of other images recorded on site.  Although I may think all of my photographs are interesting in some way, for brevity’s sake…they can’t all make it into a post.  If a storyline develops while I’m at the river, I will try to prioritize that and hope that at some other time in the future some of these other photographs will fit in somewhere?  This post is an attempt to include some of the other pictures that were taken during my last excursion to the river.  Although that visit resulted in my last published post about this tiny artist persona with a penchant for creating micro installations with plastic cup lids and straws…there were a few other sights at the river that caught my eye on this day.

Wild Potato Vine bloom, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

The Wild Potato Vine is a common flowering summer plant at the Falls.  The flowers are large and its leaves are heart-shaped and grow on very long vines.  This plant is named for the large tuber it produces.  I’ve noticed that out here, these large blooms attract large bumble bees.  This is a genuine and indigenous wild flower which contrasts with my next discovery.

Yellow-flowering Mud Nymphea, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

In a pool of stagnant water I came across this other interesting bloom.  Don’t bother looking it up in a field guide to flowers because you won’ find it.  I discovered it and so I take credit for naming it.  I call this the “Yellow-flowering Mud Nymphea” and it “mimics” members of the lotus family.  This plant has a single leaf that floats on the surface of still water or upon particularly juicy mud.  Rising from that leaf is a large blossom (about the size of a child’s hand) that is a dingy yellow color and the petals have a cloth-like texture.  Most fascinating of all…there are fake droplets of water that “bead up” on the individual petals.  Imagine if you took hot glue and applied small drops to the petals…well, it would look a lot like what is happening on this plant.  Knowing how this plant functions out here will require additional study.  The Falls of the Ohio is a highly disturbed place and oddities are springing up all over.  This just happens to be the latest mutant plant to add to a growing list.

Grass growing from small hole in a plastic, toy wheel, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Another topic I have explored in a past post see “Life in a Bucket” are real plants that grow in less than promising circumstances.  Like many people, I have marveled at how plants can grow in narrow cracks in the sidewalks. The next trio of images are related to that phenomena.  On my last adventure, I found three examples to share with you that demonstrate how opportunistic life can be.  The image above shows a couple of sprigs of grass that are growing out of a small hole in a plastic, toy wheel.  The wheel was probably originally part of a child’s tricycle.  Over time, the detached hollow wheel filled with dirt and silt and retained enough moisture to allow grass seeds to germinate.  Next is another wheel/plant combination that I see more commonly in the park.

Tire garden, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

This is a tire garden.  Because old, ruined automotive tires are frequently thrown in the river (out of sight, out of mind) they frequently wash up here.  Over time, they sink into the sand and mud and are very difficult to move.  Opportunistic seeds colonize the central space where wood, silt, and other nutrients collect and before long you have a mini ecosystem growing out of a circular island in the sand.  My next image is an amazing willow tree that I have posted images of before.  Let’s look at how it is doing this year?

Willow tree growing out of a tire, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Amazingly, this willow is growing through the metal holes of the wheel.  Previously, I had speculated on whether or not this tree would lift the tire into the air as it grew or be choked to death as the holes became too small?  This year’s seasonal flooding has tipped the wheel up on one edge and exposed the roots of the tree.  So far, it appears to be okay.  I will be keeping tabs on this tree to see how it fares in the future.  How the natural and artificial come together in the wider environment is an area of great interest for me.  Our next example is a good illustration of this.

Willow roots and strands of frayed barge cable, Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

willow roots and barge cable merge, Falls of the Ohio, 2014

I walked passed this willow tree and noticed that a frayed, root-like, barge cable was intertwined with the living tree’s root system.  Perhaps it’s the cable’s bright colors contrasting against the natural tones of the willow roots and earth that give it an aggressive appearance to me?  The actions of the river help unravel these large nylon ropes used to moor and secure very large barges.  Interestingly, I have seen various bird species hasten this process by picking apart the fibers for use as nesting material.  The Baltimore Oriole is especially good at this and uses the colorful fibers in the construction of their hanging basket nests.  The Ohio River, per tonnage moved, is one of the busiest waterways in the world for commercial navigation.  I find the remnants of old barge cables frequently washed up upon the shore and buried in the sand and on occasion have integrated them into different projects.

Soft drink can in the water, Aug. 2014

Sometimes it’s just the incongruity or coincidence that I feel just finding the trash in this context.  The photo above finds a partially crushed “Sunkist” brand soft drink resting upon a piece of rusty-colored concrete in the water on a sun-kissed day.  I later noticed at home, the small damselfly that is also resting on the concrete.  Do you see it?  Or, how about the next one?

squished plastic "Real" lemon juice container, Aug. 2014

Washed ashore upon the fossil rocks was this smashed plastic lemon.  It once contained “real” lemon juice.  Over the years, I have found many of these lemon-shaped bottles.  What I find interesting here is the presented combination of image and substance…a plastic lemon that once held genuine lemon juice.  It doesn’t take much to pique my interest!  I never know what I will find on any given day at the Falls of the Ohio.  The river washes in “fresh” material on a regular basis.  The river is like our subconscious and who knows what lies below its depths or floats upon the surface to be discovered by someone walking its shoreline?

people fishing at the Falls of the Ohio, Aug. 2014

Read Full Post »

Orangeman, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The Orangeman was really excited to see me and asked me breathlessly, “Where have you been lately?”  I filled him in about my busy life and work and then turned the table by asking my friend what all the hubbub was about?  He knows that if I could I would spend most of my time down by the river and probably go completely native and become a river rat in the process.  He also knows that if there is something not to be missed down by the Falls of the Ohio…that I would do my best not to miss it!  The Orangeman explained that he had several things he wanted to show me beginning with a monumental discovery he came across in a discarded plastic five gallon bucket.  This would be Exhibit A.

plants growing in a found bucket, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

The slightly sun-faded blue bucket or pail was sitting on an angle in the sand…just as the river had left it.  River mud and dirt more than filled the bucket up passed the midway point.  Orangeman walked me over to the bucket and said “Peek inside and tell me what you see.”  I did as he asked and more than a little perplexed I replied…”Well, I see a few small plants and vines growing in the dirt.”  Orangeman groaned…”That part is obvious, however, the deeper meaning lies in how resilient life is and even within the confines of a plastic bucket…life wants to grow and express itself.”  I had to admit that the Orangeman was making an interesting point here.  At home, I keep flowers and plants in flower pots and other containers made for the purpose and get pleasure from seeing them thrive and be beautiful.  What I hadn’t considered was the idea that any container also acts as a barrier.  Life wants to join with life and be a part of the interconnected whole.  The roots of these bucket plants were only going to be able to spread so far.  Still, as the Orangeman explained…”The will to live and grow is strong even if there are limitations present.  There was more to see and the Orangeman walked me over to Exhibit B.

plant life growing in a shattered plastic drum, Falls of the Ohio, Sept. 2013

I must admit that I was impressed by the second example that my friend the Orangeman showed me.  In a shattered plastic drum, various grasses and so-called weeds were sprouting through a large hole in the top of the container.  Years ago, dirt and sand filled the barrel through the actions of river water and wind rendering it too heavy to pick up and move.  Different plant seeds found their way into the barrel and discovering this small niche…set out to colonize and thrive as best they could.  Perhaps these grasses will find enough of what they need to move through their life cycle and produce seed for another generation?  Or perhaps they won’t due to all kinds of other variables, but the point remains that life will take that chance.

Orangeman speaks, Sept. 2013

I hadn’t seen the Orangeman in such a didactic mood before and I was impressed with his earnestness.  Previously, he had struck me as a happy-go-lucky guy and not especially bothered by all the serious stuff in the world.  I certainly was seeing a different side of my friend that I hadn’t seen before.  We walked and talked together and before long reached the last sight he wanted me to see.  We might as well designate this as Exhibit C of the day.

Orangeman and willow/tire tree, late Aug. 2013, Falls of the Ohio

The Orangeman stopped next to an old discarded tire and with a flourish of his arms and hands and said, “Here it is!”  The “it” part was a small willow tree that was growing through the center of the tire.  I didn’t tell my friend this but, I already knew about this particular tree and another one I had discovered very similar to it in the western section of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  I had even photographed this very tree on several occasions.  This is how it looked in late spring.

willow tree growing through a tire

We had a relatively cool spring and it seemed to my eye that the plants at the Falls got off to a slow start.  The willow-in-the-tire took its time ‘leafing out”, but eventually it did.  Now I must say that a tree growing through the middle of a tire is a remarkable thing, however, there is more to admire about this particular tree.  The Orangeman invited me to make a closer inspection.

willow growing through holes in a metal wheel, Sept. 2013

Amazingly, this willow tree was growing through the holes in the metal wheel that were still in the tire!  The tiny, wispy seeds from a willow tree must have passed through one of the holes and taken root in the mud and soil beneath the tire.  Hungry and thirsty for light, the various branches moved through the holes.  I told the Orangeman that this was indeed an amazing example of life making do in very unpromising circumstances.

willow/tire tree, June 2013

I’m going to monitor this tree with the Orangeman’s help because I’m curious to see if it can continue to thrive and grow.  Will it eventually lift the tire into the air like some perverse hula-hoop as the trunk thickens and becomes more pronounced?  Or, will the holes in the metal prove too restrictive and choke the life out these branches?  Or, will something else out of the blue change the situation?  The river usually gets the last word and flooding could easily send a flotilla of battering logs the willow tree’s way.  The Orangeman and I parted company, but not before I thanked him for his time.  Indeed, he had given me much to mull over.  The idea that life is very resilient and will find a way to endure was comforting to me…especially as the physical world continues to change around us.

plastic pine growing out of a stump, Sept. 2013

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: